Challenges for red meat supply chain include reduced demand from public sector

Disruptions to the public sector, including the closure of schools and colleges, continue to be a challenge for Scotland’s red meat supply chain, commented Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chairman Kate Rowell.

Before the crisis, one in four people in the UK had access to a public sector meal each day, and with multiple food-serving organisations closed, the demand decline resulting from food sector closures has been compounded.

“Discussion surrounding the disruption to the red meat supply chain has been dominated by the foodservice industry, in which 20% of total beef sales disappeared overnight, but reduced public sector demand is also as a cause for concern,” said Rowell.

“UK public service establishments deliver over two billion meals a year and are a significant purchaser within the overall red meat market.

While care homes, prisons and military bases remain operational, there are some aspects of the public sector – such as the short-term closure of many outlets and longer-term mounting pressure to limit red meat consumption for health and environmental reasons – that have compromised demand.

“There are fewer general hospital patients and the closure of schools, colleges, and public buildings such as museums, leisure centres and libraries, has further distorted the market,” she added.

Although much of the public sector is serviced by wholesalers, downstream suppliers, producers, and distributors will feel the effect.

“We’re experiencing a ‘new normal’ and what we’re trying to do is think differently about how we can ensure that there is an equitable return for all parts of the supply chain.

“We are working with the Scottish Government, and in regular contact with retailers and wholesalers, to find solutions to these issues as there is no quick fix.

“As part of this we are investing heavily in balancing carcase demand with a Scotland-specific £500,000 consumer campaign,” commented Rowell.

In addition to working on supporting the wholesale market, a major GB national consumer campaign encouraging consumers to ‘Make It’ with beef, will run from mid-May in partnership with AHDB and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC).

The £1.2 million campaign is a joint response by all three organisations to promote the high-value cuts, such as steaks and roasts, again tackling carcase balance challenges.

With loin and hindquarter sales down, it will remain a challenge for the industry to move the entire carcase while minimising impact to the overall value.

“Our collaborative national campaign aims to inspire consumers, who are unable to eat out, to create restaurant-style meals in their homes.

“Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork are in good supply in Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl, as well as the vast majority of independent butchers across Scotland, and we encourage the public, where possible, to buy our world-class products and support their local producers,” said Rowell.